CAD Controversy Letters to the Editor: DGN or DWG?

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Unified file format debate continues — opinions from around the world.

Let the users decide.
Dear Editor,

What will it take to unite all users under one standard file format?

I’d just like to respond to Brian MacCartney’s comments to my comments and add a few more.

I totally agree that the DGN file format is superior to DWG and in an ideal world we’d all be using DGN. It is very frustrating that DWG is so popular, especially in a collaborative sense, but most deliverables demand DWG (in the UK at least). In my case, the drive for a single file format is to reduce problems when collaborating with third parties and in-house. I work for a large multidisciplinary, multi-CAD organization and these problems impact efficiency and profitability.

It’s not as easy as my glibly saying “Use DWG,” since there are many variations in the use of DWG. Moreover, the quality of DWG users (particularly AutoCAD users) leaves a lot to be desired in comparison to DGN users. Perhaps that is more to do with numbers of users, rather than quality of staff per se. However, surveys seem to indicate that MicroStation users are higher quality than AutoCAD users and that’s my experience too. Could this be due to inadequate training, configuration and support? A well-configured system brings many rewards. Training is essential in ever more complex systems.

The fact that AutoCAD’s mechanics are abysmal (a single undo buffer for elements and viewing being one example of the many issues I have with AutoCAD) doesn’t help. [Editor’s note: MicroStation has separate undo buffers for element changes and view changes. AutoCAD only has only one undo buffer for both changes to elements and changes to the view (for example, zoom in or zoom out).] And I’ve lost count of the number of corrupt files AutoCAD won’t fix but will open without any problems in MicroStation!

Collaboration is the real issue in my case and using DWG (although I wish I didn’t have to) enables me to drive the organization I work for into the world of BIM [Building Information Modeling].

It’s not easy and there are lots of issues involved which makes using DWG, as a single file format, very limiting. But it is possible to get the applications to work more seamlessly together.

In the long term, it is probably down to the user base to continue to demand better collaborative integration between applications.

We have come a long way since I started in this industry 23 years ago, but we still have a long way to go. The future is clouded however by the newer generation of BIM applications like Bentley Architecture and [Autodesk’s] Revit that bring more file formats into use.

I keep thinking of one file format (“protocol” is the correct term) — that is TCP/IP. [Editor’s note: TCP/IP stands for “Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol”, which is the protocol used for transmitting data between computers and as the basis for the Internet.] In our industry, this protocol is the de-facto network protocol. Over the years, it has become the standard protocol for networks, largely due to the mass market that is the Internet. My wish is for a single file format across the spectrum of applications defined by the users. Why not? Why do we have to put up with multiple, proprietary file formats in the key applications we use? Just to protect the developers’ interests? Wouldn’t the developers’ interests be better served with a single file format, relieving them of having to invest in file translator development? If the capital invested in translators could be directed elsewhere, wouldn’t that be better for the user base? We might even get curved multi-lines then! Or perhaps Bentley could hit the mass market harder. Just look at the growth and presence of Google, Google Earth and SketchUP when the mass market is attacked with gusto.

My biggest concern is: Without a single industry standard file format, collaboration and single data models (BIM) are still a long way off for most and that’s a bad thing. The very last thing I need is for users to create a single 3D data model in one application that cannot be accessed or needs translating into another application. That’s been traumatic enough in 2D over the years. I just don’t need that kind of hassle in 3D. I just hope Bentley does something before we all have to deliver in Revit.

Kind regards,
John Evans
ProjectWise Manager
These are my personal opinions, not those of my employer.

The one who can do both has a foot in the door.
Dear Editor,
The AutoCAD versus MicroStation controversy will go on as long as there are two “perfect” operators and two different CAD packages. A line should be drawn from left to right or the reverse. Believe it or not, it is very important to some. I have been sitting in front of a screen since 1984. He who learns on program “A” will tout that program, while program “B” will have users who do the same. Two users drawing a line using two different programs will not have a whole lot of time difference in the process (nanoseconds maybe).

More and more employers are looking to the program “specialists” to do their work, whether it be AutoCAD or MicroStation. The government is looking to go with MicroStation but AutoCAD has such a hold (due to cost of software and programmer friendliness) that one is forced to deal with the other. I see a day when the two will show up in the same utility and then the argument will have been neutralized. Meanwhile, the DWG versus DGN debate is for those who are fresh in the industry (and sales reps) and have a point to prove (or a sale to make). Whether the ad says MicroStation or AutoCAD users wanted, the one [user] who can do both has a foot in the door.

Steve Shelton
CAD Consultant

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